Whore. Hooker. Courtesan. She preferred the term courtesan, actually. It sounded almost classy.
She lounged naked on the tangerine colored leather of a Vauxhall Cresta parked in a dark alley. It was a nice car for a tough Teddy Boy. Tommy Steele sang “A Lovely Night” on the radio.
“Now you take off your clothes,” she said.
William smiled and began tossing them aside. He moved too slow for her, so she helped him out of his long jacket and shirt, then yanked off the tight, narrow drainpipe trousers. Her hand found a flick knife in one pocket as she set them aside.
She had to change again before the Jones Gang caught up with her. She’d been one of them until Rupert caught her in a lie. At this point, she could hardly remember who she was before this all started.
She started pulling on William’s clothes. The lump of the knife poked her thigh. The clothes fit her slim frame as if they hung on a hanger. She slipped on his socks — by God, they were tangerine to match the car’s leather — and his black suede shoes.
“What are you doing?” William said, his smile replaced by an angry grimace.
“Don’t you think I look good in these?” She flashed her most beguiling smile. She’d left the Jones Gang less than a kilometer away. She had to hurry.
“You look much better without any clothes on.” He pulled at the jacket.
That’s when her body started to change in response to the minuscule bits of skin and hair William had inevitably left on his clothes. The first wave always hit her hardest. She doubled over in pain.
“Are you all right?” William wore a look of repulsion even as he reached a hand towards her. He probably thought she was going to puke on his precious leather seats.
Her light brown hair shortened and darkened to match his. Her body receded in some places and filled out in others until the clothes fit her perfectly.
William paled and pressed back against the car door. “Bloody hell,” he whispered.
She pulled out the flick knife and held it to his throat. “Get out,” she said in her new baritone, a perfect mimicry of William’s.
He scrambled out and fell into the alley.
She dug through his pockets for the car keys. William ran to the driver’s side and flipped the visor down, spilling the keys into his palm.
A pair of headlights appeared at the end of the alley and blinded her. Rupert’s familiar voice barked out orders for the rest of his gang to search the clubs up and down the street, looking for her.
She climbed out of the car and ran.
“There she is,” cried Rupert.
“That’s a bloke.”
“It’s her, you fool. A real Teddy would’ve stood up to us.”
Three doors slammed shut behind her, and their shoes slapped the pavement as they gave chase.
She turned the corner and ducked into the nightclub where she’d found William. She knew they would follow. This close, there was no escaping or fighting them. She needed another way out.
Smoke, laughter, and music filled the air. The crowd and dim lights would make it hard for her to find the rest of William’s gang. She kept her head down until she found another pair of ankles sporting the same tangerine socks she wore.
“William,” a guy with a pompadour and white jacket said in surprise. “I thought you’d be a while.”
“Some guys broke up my little party,” she said in William’s voice. “I think they followed me in here.”
William’s buddy gestured to the front door with his chin. “Those freams?”
Rupert and two others stood just inside the door, scanning the crowd. They all wore long, dark jackets over high-collared shirts and black Slim Jim ties, and they’d slicked back their long hair with plenty of grease.
“I got this for you, William.” He reached in his jacket and pulled out a cosh. The long metal pipe gleamed as it caught a light. On his way to the door, he tapped a couple of other guys on the shoulder. They parted the crowd like a ship’s hull through water.
William, still naked, ran through the door, pushing the Jones Gang aside in his haste. “Hey,” he shouted when he spotted his friends approaching. He said something else that got swallowed by the music and voices. His friends turned angry gazes on her.
Rupert noticed her at the same time. His narrowed eyes let her know he wasn’t fooled by William’s form or clothes.
No, no, nonono, no!
She shoved her way through the crowd. Somebody grabbed her arm. She flashed William’s knife, and the grip disappeared. Then she ran out the back door into the now-empty alley.
Rupert had left his car unlocked and the keys inside in his haste to catch her. Soon she left the East End behind. She’d make good use of the car and get as far away as possible. Usually she’d change forms again, but she rather liked being a cosh boy. A Teddy Boy. A Ted. She preferred the term Ted. She needed a name anyway.
Rebecca Roland lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she writes primarily fantasy and horror. Her first novel, Shards of History, is forthcoming from World Weaver Press. Her short fiction has appeared in Uncle John’s Flush Fiction and in Stupefying Stories, and she is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. When she’s not writing, she’s usually spending time with her family, torturing patients as a physical therapist, or eating copious amounts of chocolate.